In an interview with the 92nd Street Y released today, renowned atheist Richard Dawkins suggested that the desire to believe in God arises from deists’s overestimation of their own intellect.
“It does seem to me that if there is a supernatural, superhuman intelligence that worked it all out, in a way that undermines the entire scientific enterprise because…the whole enterprise of evolutionary biology is to explain how you get prodigious complexity from virtually nothing.”
Evolutionary biologists, he added, “hand over to physicists when we can’t go beyond the virtually nothing to the absolutely nothing.”
“But if you start from quite an advanced level bacteria,” he continued, “and work up to mammals and humans, we have a working theory — which we know is true — which explains how you can go from great simplicity to prodigious complexity, and finally to the sort of complexity which is capable of designing things, of creating things, of working out how to do things.”
Dawkins suggests that because we are capable “of designing things, of creating things, of working out how to do things,” we end up looking in the universe for “something complicated enough to do design,” i.e. an intelligence that resembles our own.
“Well, if you are suddenly going in search of a designing machine, a creator, an intelligence at the root of the universe,” he said, “you just undermined your entire enterprise, because your entire enterprise has been to explain how you get to something complicated enough to do design.”
The host attempted to elicit a concession from Dawkins about the possibility of a God who merely set in motion a universe that would yield complexity — an Aristotelian “prime mover” who has no active hand in the development of the universe — but Dawkins would have none of it.
“A ‘god’ who sets the laws in place and withdraws, if the implication is that those laws were cunningly designed, cunningly crafted so that atoms had to come into existence, so that chemistry should come into existence, so that stars should come into existence, so that nuclear reactions in stars could produce the elements that later explode and we get suitable chemistry to make life…if the deistic God thought all that through and set up the laws of physics, then he would have to be damn clever.”
“He would have to be the physicist to end all physicists,” Dawkins concluded, “and his existence would need an explanation in its own right.”
Watch the first segment of Dawkins’ interview below.
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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